JGD #7: The Storm Continues

Out of a Hurricane and into a Lightning storm, the Jets continue a dangerous home stand tonight against a young Tampa team. Collecting two points against the only club left in the league that doesn’t have a win has somehow soothed tempers around Winnipeg. 

Facing his former employer, Paul Maurice called it the most ‘dialed in’ bench he’s seen from the Jets this year, and showed his pleasure by leaving out the f-bomb in his post-game presser. But the fact remains that the Jets are behind the Oilers – who made national headlines for sucking – Coyotes, and Panthers at 27th in league standings and haven’t beaten a team with a positive goal differential yet. A scoreless powerplay contributes to the Jets’ meager 11 goal showing through 6 games (5 goals in the last 5 games) and Ondrej Pavelec is on his usual grind. 

No one is using the ‘must win’ label for game seven, but six points in seven games looks a lot better than four.

Lines

Lines provided by DailyFaceoff.com

Jets Forwards

  • Ladd – Little – Byfuglien
  • Perreault – Schiefele – Wheeler
  • Galiardi – Lowry – Frolik
  • Thorburn – Slater – Halischuk

This was the lineup that managed three goals against Anton Khudobin after a four-game lull in offence since the Evander Kane injury. We have passed the two-week mark on that knee injury, by the way, and all we have is vague positivity from the head coach. 

Rookie Adam Lowry scored his first NHL goal the other night and has looked more effective at centre (where the Jets stubbornly insisted he play his first professional season with St John’s). He represents the second wave of the new guard behind Scheifele and Trouba – a former WHL MVP who is still developing his toolkit at the pro level. Will he stay at centre when Kane returns, he and Perreault swapping places from game one? The lines are always a fun mystery on this club!

Jets Defence

  • Enstrom – Bogosian
  • Stuart – Trouba
  • Clitsome – Postma
  • Pavelec
  • Hutchinson

Grant Clitsome earned some rare praise from Paul Maurice after last game, being lauded for his physical engagement and defensive zone work thought missing from his pre-season audition. Though he played 32 games, Clitsome was hampered by injury all of last season, so we shouldn’t expect his game to re-appear magically. Still, a waiver wire addition from a then-struggling franchise without a lot of depth on the back end whose current contract rests on a good-not-great showing during the wonky lockout year is not the saviour of a defence group that has helped its netminder to a dismal average to start the season.

Pavelec is a double problem, though. Posting a .906 sv% makes you a questionable start any night of the season. Still, as a coach needing a win, we can sympathize with Maurice not handing the net to the rookie backup. He’s the true starter on this franchise – the team’s best chance at a ‘W.’ Yikes.

Lightning Forwards

  • Drouin – Filpulla – Stamkos
  • Palat – Johnson – Connolly
  • Kucherov – Namestnikov – Paquette
  • Morrow – Boyle – Brown

With Callahan and Killorn injured, the waiver loss of Richard Panik is showing up in the Tampa bottom six. Talented agitator Cedric Paquette joins two Russian youngsters to make an All-21 line that should be dangerous if managed well by Jon Cooper. This team has NHL-impact prospects for miles and the NHL talent around them to make it a competitive hockey club. 

It’s the Drouin-Stamkos line that will draw the googly-eyes though, as the two former top-3 picks begin what many in Tampa hope is a long and fruitful pairing. 

Anyone remember when Brendan Morrow was effective? 

Lightning Defence

  • Carle – Stralman
  • Gudas – Garrison
  • Brewer – Sustr
  • Bishop
  • Nabokov

That Hedman injury is the worst of all. Despite the failing body of Eric Brewer drawing into the lineup alongside the mal-coordinated Andrej Sustr, this blue line still has enviable depth and variety. Backed up by the monstrous Ben Bishop, the Lightning have size (Hedman at 6’6″, Boyle and Bishop at 6’7″, Sustr at 6’8″) enough to control the flow of play without slowing down their skill-focused game plan. 

It’s a well-organized club under Jon Cooper. There aren’t many coaches who could take a team with just 3 players over 30 (Morrow, Brewer, Nabokov) and 12 starters under 25 and make them competitive. 

Predictions

Game Day Prediction: I’d love to call this one a win, especially with Colorado next up in the schedule and the very plausible chance at a streak. For me, it comes down to goaltending and bench management in this one. The team will be preaching discipline given the powerplay Tampa can ice, but soft gaps on any of their top 8 forwards are just as deadly. The Lightning use the low-zone to generate their offence, and the Jets are relying on two young centres and a mistake-prone defence group to bail out a bad goalie. 4-1 Lightning and we’re back to swearing at the media.

Obvious Prediction: Steven Stamkos finds space to blast one of his two goals on the evening top shelf, blocker side and makes the evening news.

Not-So-Obvious Prediction: JT Brown is the third star of this game after a SH blocked-shot-turned-breakaway-goal in the second effectively puts the game away. With the PP continuing to slide, Kane is rushed back only to have an ineffective season in and out of the lineup with a bum knee. DAMN YOU JT BROWN!